Friday, August 16, 2013

The Merchant of Venice

I was fortunate to get to go see this on it's opening night in Stratford.  I read this play in high school but had never seen it performed.  I remembered the general storyline, but what I hadn't recalled was just how anti-Semitic it is.  I am not a person who is easily offended, but man oh man… First I want to say the the performances were fantastic - the play, in parts, is hysterical.  A solid cast all around.  So now that that's out of the way I have to say - I am not a fan of this play - and that's not a criticism on the production.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why this play is still performed.  I understand the mentality of "we remember so that we never forget the terrible things".  I don't know how much I buy that idea.  This production was set in the 1930's with the war looming, which makes sense since the Jewish popular was not in favour then.  Here we have a story with a bunch of lovers trying to hook up - these are supposed to be our heroes - but they torture a poor money lender, Shylock The Jew, mostly just because he charges interest on his loans.  God forbid he makes money at his job.  He's spat upon, name called, beaten, his daughter is taken from him, his money is taken, his land - and also his religion, all because he's just doing this job.  He's the villain.  What the fuck.  And this production ends with (SPOILER ALERT)….

… A holocaust siren.  That's right, because our "heroes" have taken everything Shylock holds dear, including being a Jew, he's now spared from the holocaust.  WTF.  

If you're a fan of this play please explain to me why - but if you are, then this production is likely worth your time and money.  If you're new to Shakespeare maybe give one of the comedies a go :)


Robinanna neibauer said...

I'm a fan of it because it's unfair. I feel bad for Shylock too. I prefer it to be set before the Holocaust, and in either Elizabethan days or at least earlier than the 1930's because Antisemitism was deemed awful by most people after the Holocaust, and the Nazis were racial Anti Semites, not religious ones. That meant that forced conversion wasn't one of their goals. It also meant that converting or not practicing Judaism wouldn't save you from them. They also forced Shylock to convert to destroy him, not save you, as you probably agree with me on that one.

Robinanna neibauer said...

I meant that it wasn't to save him.